Software to develop a sewing pattern archive?
February 5, 2015 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for appropriate software to start documenting and cataloging a sewing pattern archive. What would be the most appropriate? I've seen this and this, but they are a little dated and not quite what I think I need.

I'm trying to develop an archive of sewing patterns that will be:

  • Vintage and Antique commercial patterns from major companies
  • Patterns from old mom & pop tailoring and custom shops
  • Patterns traced and developed from vintage and antique garments
  • Documentary photographs of period-specific hats and accessories
  • A ton of sewing books, manuals, and pamphlets

  • As it is now, I am thinking of a well-documented physical archive that could be referenced on-site or online.

    I know I could try to shoehorn it in to my library thing account by setting up a different library, but that isn't what I want. I want it to be a separate thing and much more flexible/functional than that.

    The idea is that a designer or sewer could browse through the database and look at the condition of the pattern, the original notes from the archivist, see the size range and any garments made from it, &c.

    Does such a thing exist? I'm working on this as a non-profit thing. The idea is that the references and pattern copies would be free to trace and use for anyone who wanted to. Because of that, I'd like to keep this part of the investment under $50 or so.

    We're running Macs for the foreseeable future if that makes a difference.
    posted by Tchad to Education (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
    Not exactly to answer your question about the software to do this but you may be interested in URI's Commercial Pattern Archive which is available online. You can only see samples from their archive without subscribing but you would have to subscribe to have access to the whole thing. Seems close to what you have in mind, just in case you hadn't seen it yet.

    From the website: "Commercial patterns are designed to be a disposable tool of the garment creation process, which makes them difficult to preserve. The CoPA project electronically captures and records commercial pattern data in order to preserve these scattered and vanishing records of European and American culture. The Archive is an official project of Save America's Treasures."
    posted by Shadow Boxer at 8:58 AM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

    Response by poster: Yeah, I'm familiar with them. I'm trying for something a little more friendly/casual and direct.
    And free.
    posted by Tchad at 9:17 AM on February 5, 2015

    Tap Forms!

    For an overview of how someone else did it . . This blog post from Colette.

    I've been trying to figure this out for years and a roll-your-own version just seemed crazy to develop.

    OH. And for physical organization, this from Lauren at Lladybird.
    posted by Medieval Maven at 9:25 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

    I came in to mention the same thing Medieval Maven did!

    That said, the Tap Forms method sounds like it'd work for an individual, but from your post it sounds like maybe you need something that anybody could access? If that's correct, it sounds like you need something like Ravelry but for sewing. Based on that, I found MySewingCircle - seems to be the most widely used/recommended for this sort of thing. If you click the "join" link it gives you a description of the features.

    I also found this previous post on the green asking about a Ravelry for sewing. That might lead you to a solution.
    posted by meggan at 9:30 AM on February 5, 2015

    Best answer: Wow, that blog post on Tap Forms is amazing. I've seen other create-your-own database programs, but that looks nicely mobile.

    I also want to recommend Since you're using words like "archive" and "archivist", I'm assuming you're interested in good descriptive control over your collection. is a service developed by academics, librarians, and archivists for small to medium collections. It gives you medium control in building out your database, but not total control, because it enforces some good habits around properly describing your items. There are also a lot of plugins that let you do things like make exhibits, plot things on a map, add users.

    The learning curve is probably higher, but there's a robust development community. Omeka might be overkill if you have only, say, 25 items. But if your envisioning this as something with a strong web presence, multiple contributors, special exhibits, Omeka's pretty great.

    It has a free version, and then you can pay for more storage. They've got a lot of videos up so you can see if it looks to your taste.

    Not an employee, just a fan of their model.
    posted by lillygog at 4:51 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

    Response by poster: lillygog has it the closest so far! That's great!

    I'll keep looking for something just a bit more complex that can be hosted on my own servers, but so far that is the closest.
    posted by Tchad at 4:32 AM on February 7, 2015

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